“My boy,” he said,—the word tingled from Aladdin’s ears to his heart, for it was a word of great approachment and unbending,—“I am very grateful for your efforts in my behalf. I will place honor where honor is due, and say that I owe my recent reflection to the United States Senate not so much to my more experienced political friends as to you. The present crisis in the affairs of the nation calls for men of feeling and honor, and not for politicians. I hope that you will not misconstrue me into a braggart if I say from the bottom of my heart I believe that, in returning a man of integrity and tradition to his seat in the Congress of the nation, you have rendered a service to the nation.”
The senator paused, and Aladdin, still standing, waited for him to finish.
“After a week,” said the senator, “I shall return to my duties in Washington. In the meanwhile, Margaret” (he had hitherto always referred to her before Aladdin as “my daughter”) “and I are keeping open house, and if it will give you pleasure we shall be charmed” (the word fell from the senator’s lips like a complete poem) “to have you make us a visit. Two of my sons will be at home, and other young people.”
“Indeed, and it will give me pleasure!” cried Aladdin, falling into the least suspicion of a brogue.
“I will write a line to your chief,” continued the senator, “and I have reason to believe that he will see you excused. We shall expect you to-morrow by the fourthirty.”
“I’m ever so much obliged, sir,” said Aladdin.
“My boy,” said the senator, gravely, after a full minute’s pause, “we are all concerned in your future, which promises to be a brilliant one. It rests with you. But, if an old man may be permitted a word of caution, it would be this: Let your chief recreation lie in your work; leave the other things. Do I make myself clear enough?” (Aladdin nodded guiltily.) “Leave the frailties to the dullards of this world.”
He rose to go.
“My young friend,” said the senator, “you have my best wishes.”
Grimacing with the pain in his foot, limping badly, but always stately and impressive,—almost superimpending,—Hannibal St. John moved slowly out of the office.
The weather turned suddenly gusty and cold, and that afternoon it began to snow, and it kept on snowing. All night fine dry flakes fell in unexampled profusion, and by morning the face of the land was many inches deep. Nor did the snow then cease. All the morning it continued to fall with vigor. The train by which Aladdin was to go to the St. Johns’ left at two-thirty, arriving there two hours later; and it was with numb feet and stinging ears that he entered the car reserved for smokers, and, bundling in a somewhat threadbare over coat, endeavored to make himself comfortable for the journey. As the train creaked and jerked out of the protecting station, the storm smote upon the windows with a noise like thrown sand, and a back draft down the chimney of the iron stove in one end of the car sent out puffs of smutty smoke at whatever points the various castings of the stove came together with insufficient snugness. There were but half a dozen people in the whole train.